Right-wing forces are trying to portray Ankit Saxena’s death as an ‘Us versus Them’ clash, but his family has given us hope that we can fight attempts to divide

Have you been in love? Have you suffered a heartbreak or a loss? Have you been told you are not allowed to be with someone because of reasons linked to religion and hate? Ankit Saxena, a 23-year-old professional photographer, was stabbed to death in Delhi’s Khyala area on February 1. His crime: falling in love with a woman who is a Muslim. The two had planned to get married, but her family members were so outraged by the thought that they allegedly murdered him.

So far, I haven’t heard anyone describe Ankit’s relationship with the woman as ‘love yudh’ or whatever the opposite of love jihad is. I have heard a number of people say “look, what Muslims did to us”, “look, they are the enemy”, “look, they hate us”.

This is not the first time someone in India has been murdered because they dared to love after defying diktats of society and the political class. Also, this is not the first time in the country that politics of hatred is dominating the public discourse.

We don’t have leaders who can speak the language of love; we have leaders who talk about mandir-masjid, shamshaan-kabristan. Many people are stoking tensions by making outrageous statements, but few are sending out messages of love and tolerance. The dominant political forces aren’t saying love whoever you want to, the law will protect you. Much like Donald Trump, they are building a wall in India. An invisible wall with ‘us’ on one side and ‘them’ on the other. They seem to be working hard to bring about the second partition.

Make no mistake, identity related murders have nothing to do any particular religion or community. The blame for the deaths should be laid at the door of those who profit from a climate of hate and divisions, and those who are responsible for maintaining law and order but are doing exactly the opposite. Whose side are you on?

In our country right now, there is only one political outfit which gains when there are hate crimes. When a Muslim is murdered, they want you to focus on what he eats or which animal he was transporting. He deserved to be murdered, they absurdly claim. If they don’t want to be killed, why don’t they go to Pakistan, they shamelessly ask. They provoke you by citing events that took place hundreds of years ago and insist that you, too, must be enraged if their honour and history is questioned or criticised. When a Hindu is murdered they tell you, look they are the enemy, fanning hatred. When hatred is spread, it claims victims on all sides.

Unfortunately for the flag-bearers of the politics of hate, Ankit’s family has said it does not hate or blame Muslims. It only blames the people who committed the crime and wants justice for Ankit. His friends, one of whom is a Muslim, echo the sentiments. The Muslim friend participated in the last rites with Ankit’s father. A video shows them saying they want a nation where love prevails over hatred. They reminded me of the movie Rang De Basanti.

I salute Ankit for daring to love at a time where so much is stacked against love. I salute his family for their courage and refusal to be swept away by the tide of hatred that has engulfed all of us. I salute the woman who loves Ankit. I salute his friends. They give me hope. I hope they find the strength to cope with their loss. There is no political force which can prevail over young people who want to love. India needs them.

They need India too. The thousands of people who reject hatred, stand up for what’s right and dare to love. They need more Indians. They need you. They need leaders who can defuse tensions and unite communities.

Caste, religion, sexuality, age, laws — love has to battle many factors. Love is the underdog, always fighting to overcome hatred. Who are you rooting for?
ATTN BANGALORE -The brutal murder of Ankit Saxena in broad daylight in Delhi has disturbed us. He was murdered by his girlfriend’s relatives who disapproved of their inter-faith relationship. In solidarity with Ankit Saxena, Shehzadi and Yashpal Saxena,VIMOCHANA is  organising a Women in Black action on the 14th of February – 5:30 PM at the Big 50 Bus stop, near Opera Circle, Brigade Road. Please joinin large numbers to protest against the fast shrinking secular spaces in our country.